Ask Bamboo: Is pet insurance worth it?

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According to Defaqto, pet owners pay £13 a month, on average, to insure their cat while dog owners pay a hefty £28 a month to protect their pooch, making it easy to wonder: is pet insurance worth it?

Over the course of the year, that adds up to a pretty whopping £156 to protect your cat and £336 to protect your dog. And, that total is even higher if you’ve got more than one pet, a particularly rare breed or a slightly older job.

In fact, asking ‘is pet insurance worth it?’ is a relatively common question – many people just don’t see the point of paying for something that you might never use. And, unlike insurance for your car, pet insurance isn’t compulsory at all.

Other people, though, see insurance as a necessary evil when they have a pet. In fact, they like the security and peace of mind that it gives them. If their pet gets ill, they won’t have to worry about how they can afford the treatment or whether or not to get them medicine every month – the insurance will have that covered.

If you’re still up in the air, here’s a few tips for working out whether pet insurance is worth it and what deals could be right for you.

Do you want the cover? Is this pet insurance worth it?

Let’s start with the most basic question: do you want your pet insured?

Some people consider pet insurance worth it. These people want the peace of mind and insurance policies that cover everything from medical bills to housing when they go on holiday. They want to know that, if anything goes wrong, they’ll only have to pay the excess and then everything – from the initial diagnosis through to extensive treatment and surgery – is covered by the insurance plan, regardless of whether they’ve had their insurance policy for several years or only a few months.

Equally, some people don’t want pet insurance. It’s estimated that half of the UK’s dogs and almost two-thirds of the UK’s cats are uninsured. Whether that’s as a result of not getting around to it, prices being too high or just not seeing the point, we’re not sure. But it goes without saying that most pet owners are more comfortable with paying for the vet bills if and when they happen than paying monthly for something that may never happen.

The decision is completely up to you.

However, it’s important to remember that vet bills can spiral into the thousands for seemingly simple problems and illnesses. If you don’t have a decent amount of savings put away for the worst case scenario, it might be worth paying towards pet insurance. (Especially as, as soon as you’ve taken out insurance, your pet is covered for vet bills up to around £8,000*)

*On average, maximum limits depend on your individual policy.

If you decide pet insurance is worth it, it’s time to work out what policy you want

There are four types of pet insurance policies, available from different insurers:

Lifetime

Lifetime covers vet fees up to a certain amount every year. On top of that, lifetime cover gives you the same amount of cover every year, regardless of how many claims you make.
Lifetime cover is, usually, the most expensive insurance policy – but they are particularly great if your pet develops a long-term condition (such as diabetes or has a stroke) as they cover all of the check-ups and medicine for the rest of its life.

Maximum benefit

Maximum benefit policies provide a maximum amount of vet fees cover per condition. These are great for one off conditions – such as a broken leg – but less effective for on-going conditions as, as soon as the limit is reached, the condition becomes classified as a pre-existing condition and is excluded from all future claims

Time limited

A little bit like maximum benefit, time limited policies pay a maximum amount for conditions, but only for the course of a year. After that year, you won’t be able to claim for any of the costs of treatment for that condition on the insurance.

Accident only

Accident only is a very basic level of insurance, only covering treating accidental injuries, such as being hit by a car or being bitten by another animal. (Some, but not all, policies cover illnesses that come about as a result of these accidents.)

The trick is finding an insurance plan that works for you, and that fits your budget. GoCompare and price comparison sites are great for this – but remember to keep an eye on the excess. You don’t want a high excess, otherwise every time you go to the vet, you’ll have to pay out a lot of money before your insurance kicks in. Similarly, a percentage excess can get very expensive over the course of long-term treatment.

What information do they need to give me a quote?

When you get a quote for your pet insurance, the insurer will need to know the age of your pet and whether it has any pre-existing conditions. As a rule, it’s much harder (or more expensive) to get insurance for an older dog that already has healthcare problems. If you do, it’s very unlikely that they’ll provide cover for the condition or any of its effects.

What’s the cheapest way to make my pet insurance worth it?

The Money Advice Service provides a great overview on how to get the best pet insurance deal:

Buy insurance when your pet is young and healthy. If you wait until they are older or have a health problem, you may find it difficult to get the cover you need or have to pay more for it.
Make sure you get the right policy from the start. If you choose a policy that only pays vet bills for one year, other providers may not agree to cover conditions you’ve claimed for from your first provider.

Choose a policy that pays out throughout your pet’s lifetime. Vet bills are the main reason people buy pet insurance and, while lifetime cover is not the cheapest option, it covers conditions that require treatment year after year.

If you’ve not taken out pet insurance and are looking for a way of paying for pet bills – or for how to keep the cost of pet ownership down – we’ve got you covered. Check out our article on ways to cover vet costs

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